VPS vs. Dedicated Server: Which Should You Choose?

man kneels down and performs maintenance on server rack

On the surface, there’s a lot of overlap between a dedicated server and a virtual private server (VPS). Both options give your business exclusive access to its own hosting environment. Both are generally considered high-end hosting options, just below colocation in terms of resources. 

However, how each option works is a bit more complicated—and that’s something you’ll need to understand in order to know which one is the best option for your needs.

What Is a Dedicated Server?

A dedicated server is exactly what it sounds like. It gives you access to an entire web server with which you can do what you please. Dedicated servers are ideal for projects with intense resource demands, such as online databases and enterprise websites. 

Dedicated servers do not typically require you to provide your own hardware. Instead, you lease it from the host and are responsible for maintenance, updates, and upkeep. Some hosting providers also offer managed dedicated hosting and will take care of your backend for you. 

If it helps, think of a dedicated server as leasing an office building. Although you don’t own the property, you’re free to customize and update it however you see fit. You’re also responsible if anything goes wrong. 

What Is a Virtual Private Server?

A VPS provides you with a hosting environment that exists completely independent of any specific hardware configuration. Typically, a host will run multiple VPS instances on the same server, dividing up server resources through a type of software known as a hypervisor. Although you’re still sharing the server with other clients, your share of that server’s resources are exclusively yours. 

You might think of a VPS as a single property in an apartment complex. Although you have free reign to do what you want with your own space, you cannot opt to repaint the hallway. It’s not a perfect analogy—a VPS is capable of scaling dynamically with demand, for instance—but it’s workable, at least. 

The Pros and Cons of Dedicated Servers vs. Virtual Private Servers

Dedicated ServersVirtual Private Servers
ProsHigher performance with access to more resources
Slightly better security, as you’re not sharing a hosting environment
Full control over your hosting environment
More dynamic and scalable
Easier setup and configuration
More affordable
ConsTypically quite expensive
Often requires extensive technical knowledge
Less scalable
Little to no control over server hardware
Fewer resources compared to a dedicated server
Slightly less secure than a dedicated server

Ultimately, What Do You Need From Your Server? 

The question of whether to use a dedicated server or a virtual private server really comes down to a few factors: 

  • Resources. If your business has the budget, technical expertise, and personnel to operate a dedicated server, it’s often the better choice. 
  • Use Case. A VPS will best serve an eCommerce website or a fast-growing blog. In contrast, a larger, more enterprise-focused project like an online database or streaming website is best on a dedicated server.
  • Requirements. Are you expecting peaks and valleys, or will your resource demands be relatively constant? How important is security to your business? 

It’s also worth noting that these aren’t the only two options available to your business. There are plenty of other choices. The best advice we can give is for you to do your research and determine for yourself what works best.